Tips for growing topiary
Position your topiary in an open, sunny spot so the entire sculpture receives plenty of light. If one side is shaded, the foliage will die on that side, causing a bare patch. If you’re growing in pots, rotate the pot a quarterturn each week so all sides receive even light exposure.
To ensure lush growth, feed twice a year with a slow-release fertiliser, such as Yates Garden Gold Fertiliser, in early spring and late summer. For an extra boost, feed with a soluble or seaweed-based plant food. Mix according to pack instructions, and apply to the roots. Then pour into a spray bottle and mist the foliage.
Pruning is key. A light prune once a month should be sufficient. However, during summer, when the plant is actively growing, you can increase the frequency to every 2-3 weeks, if required. In winter, extend the time between trims as the plant does not sprout new growth. This varies depending on your climate zone and plant species.
Thrips and aphids can damage and weaken your plant. Spray them with an insecticide such as Confidor or Defender MaxGuard
How to make a bird-shaped topiary
Topiary can take a long time to grow into form. However, if you're eager, you will love this 'instant' approach. Simply buy a plant and sculpt it all in one day! It works particularly well for bird shapes.
Gather your supplies
- Small or medium buxus
- Small pot
- Potting mix
- 2mm-dia copper wire
- Sharp scissors
Remove plant from pot and tap to remove soil from root ball. Part buxus in middle to find branches where longer shoots will grow - these will form bird's head and neck.
To form head and neck, hook wire onto 1 branch at central stem to anchor it. Wrap wire around designated branches.
Cut back thickest branches all over buxus, leaving wispier ones to cover cut stubs - this creates a feathery look. Trim and shape buxus into bird's breast and tail. If you want to add more definition to the tail, wrap branches with copper wire.
Fill 1/3 of pot with potting mix. Position topiary in pot with root ball a little above rim of pot. Backfill.
Prune in spring or early summer, clipping to emphasise shape.
Inspired to try your hand at topiary? Here’s a selection of the best plants to use.
- English box (Buxus sempervirens)
- Japanese box (Buxus microphylla var. japonica)
- Westringia ‘Jervis Gem’
- Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida)
- Lilly pilly (Syzygium sp.)
- Conifers, such as juniper
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